3 amazing deconstructed dinner ideas for even the pickiest eater

Did you know that family meals are the foundation to raising healthy eaters?

Definition of a family meal

A family meal is when you all sit facing one another
and share the same food. You do not need a table—a
blanket on the floor will do—and the food does not
have to be fancy or virtuous. But the TV, phones, and
other electronic devices have to be off. To raise a
competent eater, the way you feed your child is more
important than what you feed your child.

– Ellyn Satter

When I explain to parents that eating as a family is critical  they tell me:

“But there is no meal that everyone will eat….”

Announcing the deconstructed dinner

The deconstructed dinner caters to everyone’s preferences as there is variety and nothing is combined. Even the most selective eater can find something to eat, and the more adventurous ones can make their own tasty combinations.

Serve everything in bowls in the middle of the table and let everyone choose what they want. You may be surprised when your children try new things.

Here are my top three deconstructed meals (I don’t do all the components, I pick a few based on what’s easy and in the house) but you can let your creativity run wild.

Choose items from at least 3 lines for a balanced meal. It’s worth buying a few simple plastic divided serving dishes, it will save you from washing up a dozen plates and makes serving a breeze.

I love these meals because they are interesting and take very little cooking and preparation, and don’t need specific ingredients, you can mix and match with whatever you have.

Remember not to use pressure – they may just eat the bread or just the tomatoes. Your job is to provide food, their job is to decide how much and whether to eat.

Salad & Sandwich Bar

  1. Protein – tuna/ smoked salmon/ grilled chicken/ grilled steak / boiled eggs
  2. Legumes – tinned chickpeas, black beans, lentils
  3. Feta cheese, grated cheese
  4. Starch – Pasta / baby boiled potatoes / bread
  5. Greens – lettuce, baby spinach, rocket
  6. Chopped cucumbers, sliced baby tomatoes, grated carrots, avocado cubes
  7. Yummy toppings – Nuts, cranberries, croutons, crispy noodles, toasted sesame seeds
  8. Sauces – mayonnaise, dressings, olive oil

Give everyone a big soup bowl and let them make their own salad, or plate components and eat as they like them. Everyone can also make their own sandwich if you are providing bread or rolls.

Mediterranean breakfast bonanza (works great for dinner)

  1. Scrambled eggs / omelettes
  2. Cucumber and tomatoes chopped
  3. Cream cheeses and grated cheese
  4. Olive oil
  5. Bread/ pita/ toast
  6. Fresh orange juice

Burger Bar

  1. Grilled beef/ chicken/ vegetarian burgers (love my griddle frying pan for this) / cooked shwarma meat
  2. Sliced pickles, tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped lettuce
  3. Tomato sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressing, burger sauces
  4. Burger buns/ pita bread
  5. Tahini, hummus,
  6. Oven chips

Salad & sandwich bar dinner at the Clines

  • Effort level: 2
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Enjoyment levels: 10/ 10


  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Tinned tuna
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yellow cheese, grated


  • Shredded lettuce
  • Grated carrots
  • Chopped yellow peppers
  • Chopped cucumbers


  • Boiled baby potatoes
  • Slices of rolls


  • Store-bought dressings
  • Olives

Who ate what?

6 year old daughter: Salad

4 year old son (he’s totally unpredictable when it comes to food): Sandwich and salad with vegetables and cheese

2 year old son (refuses any vegetables or fruit): Boiled eggs and baby potatoes

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